How difficult is it to stay chaste in a relationship when both parties are people with feelings? For this article, I spoke to 7 Nigerian Muslims who told me their difficulties and triumphs.
After 7 Religious Nigerians Talk About Abstaining From Sex In Their Relationships was published, a number of Muslims reached out to me, willing to share their own stories too. I am grateful to them for giving me a glimpse into their lives.
I am 4 years older than my girlfriend, but because I didn’t gain admission on time, we were both 100 level students when we met. We both come from very strong Islamic backgrounds too, but while I have been sexually active from secondary school, she had only kissed just a guy once.
We started dating in 200l. Before then, we often talked and she knew I was sexually active. Sexual activities were a big thing to her, and because I liked her so much and didn’t want to pressure her into it, I was having sex with other people without letting her know. Soon, she got comfortable with me and we started kissing, making out, and giving each other head. Video sex was involved too. But even though it was passionate and mutual, she always felt miserable and guilty afterwards. Sometimes, she would start crying. I really hated seeing her miserable, so we spoke about it and I promised her we would put in the effort to stop. We would go for 3 months, sometimes 5, and then relapse.
As a solution, we decided to meet in open places only. We decided to communicate openly and honestly, too. Whenever one of us feels sexually tensed, we tell the other, and we are careful not to say or do things that might fuel the temptation. We no longer hold hands or shake each other. We avoid all forms of physical contact, except when it happens involuntarily, or by mistake. You might not consider it a bad thing to touch the opposite sex, but in Islam, it is haram. I also have stopped having sex with other people, not just because I am trying to be a better Muslim, but also because she doesn’t deserve to be cheated on.
For a year now, we have stayed away from any form of romance or sex, either physically or virtually. I will be honest, it’s not been very easy, but with determination and perseverance, we have gotten to a level where we are not really scared of temptation as we used to be when we started our journey of abstinence. Now, we can see each other in secluded places and not be very worried. As a couple, we have been together for 5 years now.
I have friends who are having sex and are not hiding it. Me, I don’t mention whether I am having sex or not to them, abeg let everyone keep their sexual life to themselves. In my last relationship, I was tempted once and I pecked my boyfriend. The next thing he said was, “Don’t start what you can’t finish.” I got home that day and felt like a sinner.
The urges are there. I feel horny when I am lonely or when it rains and I start to catch a cold. But I am trying to be a better Muslim, so I try my best to avoid giving in to the urge. But then there are days I feel like, “What’s the point? Even those that sleep around have found better husbands and I’m here keeping myself.” When the thought comes, I usually remind myself I am doing it for the sake of Allah and not for any man, so we move. Right now, I’m approaching my 30s, and I have heard that 30s is the time when your sexual drive increases. I hope I am able to keep it up even then.
My girlfriend and I dated for 4 years. For that entire period, we always met inside her father’s house, and there was always family close by. Now, we are happily married with a daughter. We had our first outdoor date a week after our marriage.
To be honest, it’s not the easiest thing to do but it’s very possible. For me, I have made a commitment to myself not to have premarital sex and I make sure to communicate it to the person I am with. It also really helps if the person has made such a commitment to himself as well. I also try to limit how often I am alone in a room with someone I know I have chemistry with in the first place. That way, it is easier to avoid stories that touch.
I am a virgin, but even though I wear a hijab (or scarf as some people will call it), the way I talk and act would make it difficult for one to believe. I am the kind of person that will talk nasty and hail you for being a bad bitch. I understand that choosing to remain a virgin is my choice, and I do not project that choice on others. The only people who know are my best friend, my siblings, and the guys I date.
Even as a virgin, I still get tempted. Sometimes I am sexually attracted to someone, and when that person is the same I am dating, the whole thing becomes heightened. Before I got into my last relationship, I was very upfront about the no sex part. I did not mince words. I wanted to give him an opportunity to easily back off if he felt it was something he could not do. When he said he also wanted to abstain, it was perfect. That way, we are on the same wavelength and nobody can and accuse the other of ‘leading them on’. We understood that no matter how religiously inclined we were, we would have sexual urges. It is a natural feeling and no Tahajuud or Ausubilahi! can stop it. The best thing to do is figure out how best to manage it.
For us, we managed it by becoming each other’s accountability partner. When things started getting too far, one of us would put a stop to it, and then we would find something else to do. Perhaps play games or go out for ‘fresh air’. I don’t know about him but for me avoiding sexual content helped a lot. And finally, prayer and God’s help because I understand that without God all the things I mentioned can easily be negated.
Even before getting into a relationship, finding someone who’s interested in abstaining is so hard. Like, once they realize the sex part won’t be there, they just disappear. I once had this boyfriend that I really liked. I enjoyed his company so much I always wanted to be with him. Right from the start, I told him I wanted to abstain from sex and have some limits for stuff I can do, and he was like, “Yeah, sure, no problem.”
During the relationship, there were times I would spend the night at his place, and before sleeping, we’d make out. At some point though, he began pestering me for sex. He’d complain about being in pain and try to guilt-trip me into having sex with him. There were so many times he’d stand up to go pick up a condom and I’d just be there confused. At some point, I had to break things off because I didn’t feel safe around him anymore and I just felt like I had gone past my boundaries.
So personally, for me, trying to be a “chaste” Muslim and have a modern day relationship hasn’t exactly worked out. Maybe some other people have found a balance, but I just can’t seem to meet a man who’s not trying to have sex with me. Plus, these men are always so judgy. Like, from the start, they make you believe they are with you and they share your ideals and later on, they make you feel like you’re doing too much and you need to stretch your limits. It’s so exhausting. And it’s why I’m a firm believer of the fact that all men do is lie. I no even dey enter relationship again.
I don’t know why it’s difficult for them to manage their boundaries and resist the temptations, because for me it’s not that hard. I mean there are days that I feel some type of way and I want to do stuff but I always just remind myself that I’m being chaste because that’s what God wants me to do. And it’s a God who loves me, so I am sure that I am safe.
There are times that I feel doubtful oh. Like, am I not sinning in other ways? But then, that’s never an excuse to sin more. I feel like it’ll be easier for people in a relationship that are equally invested in abstaining. Like, they know what their end goal is and they don’t want to sin along the way. That way, whenever one person feels weak, the other person reminds them of what they should and shouldn’t do. Not because they don’t love each other but because of their mutual love of God. And that’s what I want but have never gotten.
Maybe because I don’t wear full hijab, men think that when I lay down the cards and say I’m not up for sex in a relationship, I’m just joking and all I need is some persuasion. But that actually gives me rape vibes. I used to think I’d be able to find a responsible man in a mosque. At least, he’d be religious and when I say certain stuff, he’ll be able to relate. But see ehn, I couldn’t even try it. The stories I heard about those Alfas were so upsetting. I just can’t. Even the ones I’ve met, there’s always something wrong with them. Either they’re terrible womanizers, or they lack basic hygiene, or they’re so judgy in a condescending manner. A good guy doesn’t have to be an Alfa, and the ones that claim to be religious don’t always have pure intentions. And I’ve had it with men whipping out condoms at me and begging me for a quick and painless one because there’s this terrible ache in their tummy or in their head that it’s only having sex with me can cure. If you knew you’ll have headache and stomach pain, why did you enter the relationship with me?
I grew up with strict Islamic background. But then, I had elder brothers who engaged in sexual activities and because I grew up around them, I became exposed to it too. Because I was friendly with ladies, my brothers teased me that I would definitely start having sex before I left secondary school. I had the opportunity to, but I promised myself not to have sex until marriage. The promise wasn’t based on religion, I just didn’t want to succumb to peer pressure. So even though I made out, penetrative sex was where I drew the line. Once, I dated a girl when I was in SS1. We were together for 7 years before she moved to another state in the 6th year and we broke up in the 7th year because of distance. It was a difficult breakup, and even though I was getting to practice what I already knew in Islam more, I was making out and doing other things that conflicted with my faith.
In my final year, I met a girl who was in 200 level. Let’s call her Idera. She was from an even stricter Islamic background. She was a hijabi, doesn’t hug, shake hands, nor touch a non-mahram— a person who isn’t a member of her family. In fact, she doesn’t believe in long-term dating. To her, 6 to 12 months maximum is enough to know who you want to marry and prepare for the marriage. So, dating while in school was a no for her.
Even though I thought her to be too strictly religious, I liked her and wanted to date her, but she turned me down and said we could only be friends. By then, I was struggling to be a better Muslim, but I kept failing. I would relapse for some months, give/get head, hand jobs, and other things but not penetrative sex. My friendship with Idera grew and even though my feelings became stronger, she refused to date me. Her rule was simple: she wanted to get her MSc before marriage; if I liked her as I claimed, I would wait for her.
When she was in 300 level, I went to visit her in school. We took a late-night stroll and somewhere in between, she let her guard down and we kissed. When we stopped, she cried so much I didn’t even know what to do. That was her first kiss and she felt really disappointed in herself for letting it happen. I had to call my cousin to beg her on my behalf. Even with that, she even asked me to do istighfar — seek for forgiveness from Allah, fast, and give sadaqah, voluntary charity, so Allah would forgive us.
The whole experience was quite overwhelming for me, so I pulled back and gave her space for 2 months. But I had really become fond of her, so I had to agree with her ground rules of staying friends with her until she is ready for marriage. It is not been easy, but let’s be honest, has anything worthwhile ever been easy? We both watch out for temptation and try to be the chastity angel when one of us is weak and attempting to give in.
We have been together for 6 years now. Our wedding is coming up by the end of this year or early next year.